Talking Theology

Last week, I was asked to speak at the Large Group meeting for InterVarsity at FIU-University Park.

These students love theology.

One of their Small Groups hosts theological discussions on eschatology (pre, post, and a-millenialism each getting a hearing).  They remind me a lot of the group that was at W&L when I first moved to Lexington.

They asked me to speak on one of the offices or works of Christ.  The previous Large Group featured a talk by one of the students on Christ's mediatorial office.

I had my work cut out for me. 

One challenge was to present a theologically engaging, deep and rich talk on some topic.

A second challenge was to practice a small bit of what Eugene Peterson calls "the subversive ministry."  Peterson paints the image of a pastor undermining the comfortable kingdoms of self set up by the people we serve.

There's a way to talk theology that doesn't honor theology.  Our theology, according to my friend Dean, spills over into doxology and, from there, into ethics and mission.  But it's easy for theology to get stuck, to never promote doxology and to never influence our ethics or engage us in mission.

Students often get stuck here.  Let's face it, we all get stuck here.  It's one thing to sit in a circle with your Christian friends and talk about God, it's another thing altogether to follow Him.

The students at FIU-UP are standing with a foot on the boat and a foot on the shore.  On the shore, they love insider conversations and details and weighty, theological words.  On the boat, they love people.  They're warm and welcoming and got pretty excited when I invited a student who didn't know Jesus to join us in our conversation.

Jesus is on the boat.  Whenever his disciples pushed him for theology for the sake of theology, he pushed back, pushing them deeper.

So, I decided to talk on the Atonement, but also to practice a little mild subversion.  Not serious subversion.  I'm not there often enough to pull that off.

What if our theology wasn't considered good theology until it lead to doxology, ethics and mission?

How do we move into the depths of doxology, ethics and mission with imperfect theological insight?

These were some of the questions I wrestled with last week as I prepared my talk on the Atonement.  As I share material from the talk over the course of this week, my direction will make more sense if you keep them in mind.

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